17
Dec
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The AF78

The AF78 is the latest from Australian headphone maker Audiofly. They're also the company's flagship product, and their first IEM (in-ear monitor). They come with 4 sets of rubber tips, two sets of foam Comply tips, a microphone*, storage tin, airline adaptor, a splitter, and cleaning tool. They cost $200 (buy here). (*different model)

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The Sound

The AF78s do sound great given their price. And they also have something of a trick up their sleeve. They're what's called a "hybrid" headphone, utilizing both a balanced armature and a traditional dynamic driver in each ear. This makes them something of an oddity in the audio world.

Balanced armatures are renowned for their ability to reproduce subtle details with precision even at low volumes. They generally have a very balanced sound signature. However, in order to achieve solid bass performance in high-end armature earbuds (or "in-ear monitors"), multiple balanced armatures are often used in each ear (sometimes up to five), with each armature tuned to emphasize a particularly frequency range.

Dynamic drivers in headphones produce sound that is, generally, more warm and "shaped" - that is to say, has a certain character, as opposed to being excessively balanced. The advantage is that a dynamic driver alone is typically considered adequate to represent all parts of the frequency spectrum - if not in a perfectly balanced fashion. It is far easier, for example, to tune a dynamic driver to be extremely bass-heavy, or exceptionally "bright" (treble-heavy), than an armature headphone. Some people like these characteristics, some don't.

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The AF78s straddle the line by using both of these solutions. The dynamic driver handles much of the low-end, while the balanced armature focuses on mids, highs, and detail. The result is a headphone with an odd set of characteristics: an ability to pull out a lot of nuance without sounding too bright, but with a warm and powerful low to mid-range. This makes the AF78s great general listening headphones - they're very versatile.

What you won't find here are the tight, booming lows of high-strung designer headphones, nor their glass-shatteringly shrill treble. You get a headphone with solid ability to preserve very subtle detail, while presenting a warm (and thus pleasing) low end.

The Fit

This is where the AF78s fell apart for me. The left earbud, no matter which tip I use (I tried all of them - including the foam Comply tips), won't get a seal in my ear. Do I have oddly shaped ear-holes? Am I some kind of mutant freak? Maybe so. But I've never had this problem with any other earbud, at least not this bad. The problem is made worse by the extremely strange shape of the earbuds, which requires you to position them at a very precise angle to get a seal. That angle does not work on my left ear. This all but ruined the AF78s - for me personally.

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I add the "me personally" caveat because I've read a number of glowing reviews for these headphones. I wanted to make sure I wasn't the only person experiencing fit issues, and I'm not. I've read several places that they don't fit well; however, I've also read reviews making no mention of this problem. So, for some people they may fit fine. For some, they may not fit at all (me). Sorry, but however you spin that, it sounds bad. And it is.

Another issue caused by the ill fit is that when you're moving about with the earbuds in, they come unsealed. A lot. Again - this was for me personally.

One thing that will affect you regardless of your aural geometry is the fabric-wrapped cord (apparently it's "CORDURATM"). It makes a fair bit of noise when you're moving around, and you're going to notice it unless the tunes are really pumping. It's not the end of the world, but it's the kind of thing that drives some people crazy.

Conclusion

The AF78s are a very solid entry-level IEM. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that, aurally, these are good value for money at $200. However, the issues I've had with the fit would make me return them had I bought them myself. I have no reservations when I say that. For you, though, the AF78s may be just fine. As always, buy your electronics from somewhere with a generous return policy (eg, Amazon), and the regret will only extend as far as a possible restocking fee and the wait time of a refund.

Audiofly has definitely impressed me with these earbuds, and I'm looking forward to where they head next. Unfortunately, it seems like my ears just weren't made for them.

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David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://www.jeroenheijster.com/ Jeroen Heijster

    You can always donate them to me ;)

  • onpoint G

    I'll get a payday loan and jump right on this

  • TynanDeRosa

    Still seems over priced when you can get CX 300-II's for 130+ less with better frequency response at the same impedance.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Comparing two headphones' audio quality based on frequency response figures is like comparing two cars' track performance based on 0-60 times - it's not a remotely complete picture. Plenty of headphones with great frequency response don't sound very good at all. Low impedance is certainly a consideration for mobile usage.

      • TynanDeRosa

        That's a bad analogy when a car's 0-60 time on a straight track does matter. And yes, frequency, impedance and SPL are very good factors in purchasing headphones. In a blind test, do you think people with a good ear could pick these out of a lineup with say cx-300-ii's, ibeats or cc01's? <- totally a good idea for an article.

  • Dar

    You could have at least wiped the earwax off before taking the photos. Blech. :P

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      That isn't earwax. Those are foam Comply tips, and they pick up dust (and everything else that touches them) very easily, and naturally have an oily sheen to them.